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Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 9 out of 13

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a thousand times, and in a thousand different ways, confessed your love
for her; and yet, had you not said one word, your return alone would have
been a terrible indiscretion. I persist, then, in drawing this
conclusion; that if you do not place a better watch over yourself than
you have hitherto done, one day or other something will happen that will
cause an explosion. Who will save you then? Answer me. Who will save
her? for, innocent as she will be of your affection, your affection will
be an accusation against her in the hands of her enemies."

"Alas!" murmured De Guiche; and a deep sigh accompanied the exclamation.

"That is not answering me, De Guiche."

"Yes, yes."

"Well, what reply have you to make?"

"This, that when the day arrives I shall be no more a living being than I
feel myself now."

"I do not understand you."

"So many vicissitudes have worn me out. At present, I am no more a
thinking, acting being; at present, the most worthless of men is better
than I am; my remaining strength is exhausted, my latest-formed
resolutions have vanished, and I abandon myself to my fate. When a man
is out campaigning, as we have been together, and he sets off alone and
unaccompanied for a skirmish, it sometimes happens that he may meet with
a party of five or six foragers, and although alone, he defends himself;
afterwards, five or six others arrive unexpectedly, his anger is aroused
and he persists; but if six, eight, or ten others should still be met
with, he either sets spurs to his horse, if he should still happen to
retain one, or lets himself be slain to save an ignominious flight.
Such, indeed, is my own case: first, I had to struggle against myself;
afterwards, against Buckingham; now, since the king is in the field, I
will not contend against the king, nor even, I wish you to understand,
will the king retire; nor even against the nature of that woman. Still I
do not deceive myself; having devoted myself to the service of such a
love, I will lose my life in it."

"It is not the lady you ought to reproach," replied Raoul; "it is

"Why so?"

"You know the princess's character, - somewhat giddy, easily captivated
by novelty, susceptible to flattery, whether it come from a blind person
or a child, and yet you allow your passion for her to eat your very life
away. Look at her, - love her, if you will, - for no one whose heart is
not engaged elsewhere can see her without loving her. Yet, while you
love her, respect, in the first place, her husband's rank, then herself,
and lastly, your own safety."

"Thanks, Raoul."

"What for?"

"Because, seeing how much I suffer through this woman, you endeavor to
console me, because you tell me all the good of her you think, and
perhaps even that which you do not think."

"Oh," said Raoul, "there you are wrong, comte; what I think I do not
always say, but in that case I say nothing; but when I speak, I know not
how to feign or to deceive; and whoever listens to me may believe me."

During this conversation, Madame, her head stretched forward with eager
ear and dilated glance, endeavoring to penetrate the obscurity, thirstily
drank in the faintest sound of their voices.

"Oh, I know her better than you do, then!" exclaimed Guiche. "She is not
merely giddy, but frivolous; she is not only attracted by novelty, she is
utterly oblivious, and is without faith; she is not simply susceptible to
flattery, she is a practiced and cruel coquette. A thorough coquette!
yes, yes, I am sure of it. Believe me, Bragelonne, I am suffering all
the torments of hell; brave, passionately fond of danger, I meet a danger
greater than my strength and my courage. But, believe me, Raoul, I
reserve for myself a victory which shall cost her floods of tears."

"A victory," he asked, "and of what kind?"

"Of what kind, you ask?"


"One day I will accost her, and will address her thus: 'I was young
madly in love, I possessed, however, sufficient respect to throw myself
at your feet, and to prostrate myself in the dust, if your looks had not
raised me to your hand. I fancied I understood your looks, I rose, and
then, without having done anything more towards you than love you yet
more devotedly, if that were possible - you, a woman without heart,
faith, or love, in very wantonness, dashed me down again from sheer
caprice. You are unworthy, princess of the royal blood though you may
be, of the love of a man of honor; I offer my life as a sacrifice for
having loved you too tenderly, and I die despairing you.'"

"Oh!" cried Raoul, terrified at the accents of profound truth which De
Guiche's words betrayed, "I was right in saying you were mad, Guiche."

"Yes, yes," exclaimed De Guiche, following out his own idea; "since there
are no wars here now, I will flee yonder to the north, seek service in
the Empire, where some Hungarian, or Croat, or Turk, will perhaps kindly
put me out of my misery." De Guiche did not finish, or rather as he
finished, a sound made him start, and at the same moment caused Raoul to
leap to his feet. As for De Guiche, buried in his own thoughts, he
remained seated, with his head tightly pressed between his hands. The
branches of the tree were pushed aside, and a woman, pale and much
agitated, appeared before the two young men. With one hand she held back
the branches, which would have struck her face, and, with the other, she
raised the hood of the mantle which covered her shoulders. By her clear
and lustrous glance, by her lofty carriage, by her haughty attitude, and,
more than all that, by the throbbing of his own heart, De Guiche
recognized Madame, and, uttering a loud cry, he removed his hands from
his temple, and covered his eyes with them. Raoul, trembling and out of
countenance, merely muttered a few words of respect.

"Monsieur de Bragelonne," said the princess, "have the goodness, I beg,
to see if my attendants are not somewhere yonder, either in the walks or
in the groves; and you, M. de Guiche, remain here: I am tired, and you
will perhaps give me your arm."

Had a thunderbolt fallen at the feet of the unhappy young man, he would
have been less terrified than by her cold and severe tone. However, as
he himself had just said, he was brave; and as in the depths of his own
heart he had just decisively made up his mind, De Guiche arose, and,
observing Bragelonne's hesitation, he turned towards him a glance full of
resignation and grateful acknowledgement. Instead of immediately
answering Madame, he even advanced a step towards the vicomte, and
holding out the arm which the princess had just desired him to give her,
he pressed his friend's hand in his own, with a sigh, in which he seemed
to give to friendship all the life that was left in the depths of his
heart. Madame, who in her pride had never known what it was to wait, now
waited until this mute colloquy was at an end. Her royal hand remained
suspended in the air, and, when Raoul had left, it sank without anger,
but not without emotion, in that of De Guiche. They were alone in the
depths of the dark and silent forest, and nothing could be heard but
Raoul's hastily retreating footsteps along the obscure paths. Over their
heads was extended the thick and fragrant vault of branches, through the
occasional openings of which the stars could be seen glittering in their
beauty. Madame softly drew De Guiche about a hundred paces away from
that indiscreet tree which had heard, and had allowed so many things to
be heard, during the evening, and, leading him to a neighboring glade, so
that they could see a certain distance around them, she said in a
trembling voice, "I have brought you here, because yonder where you were,
everything can be overheard."

"Everything can be overheard, did you say, Madame?" replied the young
man, mechanically.


"Which means - " murmured De Guiche.

"Which means that I have heard every syllable you have said."

"Oh, Heaven! this only was wanting to destroy me," stammered De Guiche;
and he bent down his head, like an exhausted swimmer beneath the wave
which engulfs him.

"And so," she said, "you judge me as you have said?" De Guiche grew
pale, turned his head aside, and was silent. He felt almost on the point
of fainting.

"I do not complain," continued the princess, in a tone of voice full of
gentleness; "I prefer a frankness that wounds me, to flattery, which
would deceive me. And so, according to your opinion, M. de Guiche, I am
a coquette, an a worthless creature."

"Worthless," cried the young man; "you worthless! Oh, no; most certainly
I did not say, I could not have said, that that which was the most
precious object in life for me could be worthless. No, no; I did not say

"A woman who sees a man perish, consumed by the fire she has kindled, and
who does not allay that fire, is, in my opinion, a worthless woman."

"What can it matter to you what I said?" returned the comte. "What am I
compared to you, and why should you even trouble yourself to know whether
I exist or not?"

"Monsieur de Guiche, both you and I are human beings, and, knowing you as
I do, I do not wish you to risk your life; with you I will change my
conduct and character. I will be, not frank, for I am always so, but
truthful. I implore you, therefore, to love me no more, and to forget
utterly that I have ever addressed a word or a glance towards you."

De Guiche turned around, bending a look full of passionate devotion upon
her. "You," he said; "_you_ excuse yourself; _you_ implore me?"

"Certainly; since I have done evil, I ought to repair the evil I have
done. And so, comte, this is what we will agree to. You will forgive my
frivolity and my coquetry. Nay, do not interrupt me. I will forgive you
for having said I was frivolous and a coquette, or something worse,
perhaps; and you will renounce your idea of dying, and will preserve for
your family, for the king, and for our sex, a cavalier whom every one
esteems, and whom many hold dear." Madame pronounced this last word in
such an accent of frankness, and even of tenderness, that poor De
Guiche's heart felt almost bursting.

"Oh! Madame, Madame!" he stammered out.

"Nay, listen further," she continued. "When you shall have renounced all
thought of me forever, from necessity in the first place, and, next,
because you will yield to my entreaty, then you will judge me more
favorably, and I am convinced you will replace this love - forgive the
frivolity of the expression - by a sincere friendship, which you will be
ready to offer me, and which, I promise you, shall be cordially accepted."

De Guiche, his forehead bedewed with perspiration, a feeling of death in
his heart, and a trembling agitation through his whole frame, bit his
lip, stamped his foot on the ground, and, in a word, devoured the
bitterness of his grief. "Madame," he said, "what you offer is
impossible, and I cannot accept such conditions."

"What!" said Madame, "do you refuse my friendship, then?"

"No, no! I do not need your friendship, Madame. I prefer to die from
love, than to live for friendship."


"Oh! Madame," cried De Guiche, "the present is a moment for me, in which
no other consideration and no other respect exist, than the consideration
and respect of a man of honor towards the woman he worships. Drive me
away, curse me, denounce me, you will be perfectly right. I have uttered
complaints against you, but their bitterness has been owing to my passion
for you; I have said I wish to die, and die I will. If I lived, you
would forget me; but dead, you would never forget me, I am sure."

Henrietta, who was standing buried in thought, and nearly as agitated as
De Guiche himself, turned aside her head as but a minute before he had
turned aside his. Then, after a moment's pause, she said, "And you love
me, then, very much?"

"Madly; madly enough to die from it, whether you drive me from you, or
whether you listen to me still."

"It is a hopeless case," she said, in a playful manner; "a case which
must be treated with soothing application. Give me your hand. It is as
cold as ice." De Guiche knelt down, and pressed to his lips, not one,
but both of Madame's hands.

"Love me, then," said the princess, "since it cannot be otherwise." And
almost imperceptibly she pressed his fingers, raising him thus, partly in
the manner of a queen, and partly as a fond and affectionate woman would
have done. De Guiche trembled from head to foot, and Madame, who felt
how passion coursed through every fiber of his being, knew that he indeed
loved truly. "Give me your arm, comte," she said, "and let us return."

"Ah! Madame," said the comte, trembling and bewildered; "you have
discovered a third way of killing me."

"But, happily, it is the slowest way, is it not?" she replied, as she led
him towards the grove of trees they had so lately quitted.

Chapter XLVI:
Aramis's Correspondence.

When De Guiche's affairs, which had been suddenly set to right without
his having been able to guess the cause of their improvement, assumed the
unexpected aspect we have seen, Raoul, in obedience to the request of the
princess, had withdrawn in order not to interrupt an explanation, the
results of which he was far from guessing; and he soon after joined the
ladies of honor who were walking about in the flower-gardens. During
this time, the Chevalier de Lorraine, who had returned to his own room,
read De Wardes's latter with surprise, for it informed him by the hand of
his valet, of the sword-thrust received at Calais, and of all the details
of the adventure, and invited him to inform De Guiche and Monsieur,
whatever there might be in the affair likely to be most disagreeable to
both of them. De Wardes particularly endeavored to prove to the chevalier
the violence of Madame's affection for Buckingham, and he finished his
letter by declaring that he thought this feeling was returned. The
chevalier shrugged his shoulders at the last paragraph, and, in fact, De
Wardes was out of date, as we have seen. De Wardes was still only at
Buckingham's affair. The chevalier threw the letter over his shoulder
upon an adjoining table, and said in a disdainful tone, "It is really
incredible; and yet poor De Wardes is not deficient in ability; but the
truth is, it is not very apparent, so easy is it to grow rusty in the
country. The deuce take the simpleton, who ought to have written to me
about matters of importance, and yet he writes such silly stuff as that.
If it had not been for that miserable letter, which has no meaning at all
in it, I should have detected in the grove yonder a charming little
intrigue, which would have compromised a woman, would have perhaps have
been as good as a sword-thrust for a man, and have diverted Monsieur for
many days to come."

He looked at his watch. "It is now too late," he said. "One o'clock in
the morning; every one must have returned to the king's apartments, where
the night is to be finished; well, the scent is lost, and unless some
extraordinary chance - " And thus saying, as if to appeal to his good
star, the chevalier, greatly out of temper, approached the window, which
looked out upon a somewhat solitary part of the garden. Immediately, and
as if some evil genius was at his orders, he perceived returning towards
the chateau, accompanied by a man, a silk mantle of a dark color, and
recognized the figure which had struck his attention half an hour

"Admirable!" he thought, striking his hands together, "this is my
providential mysterious affair." And he started out precipitately, along
the staircase, hoping to reach the courtyard in time to recognize the
woman in the mantle, and her companion. But as he arrived at the door of
the little court, he nearly knocked against Madame, whose radiant face
seemed full of charming revelations beneath the mantle which protected
without concealing her. Unfortunately, Madame was alone. The chevalier
knew that since he had seen her, not five minutes before, with a
gentleman, the gentleman in question could not be far off. Consequently,
he hardly took time to salute the princess as he drew up to allow her to
pass; then when she had advanced a few steps, with the rapidity of a
woman who fears recognition, and when the chevalier perceived that she
was too much occupied with her own thoughts to trouble herself about him,
he darted into the garden, looked hastily round on every side, and
embraced within his glance as much of the horizon as he possibly could.
He was just in time; the gentleman who had accompanied Madame was still
in sight; only he was hurrying towards one of the wings of the chateau,
behind which he was on the point of disappearing. There was not an
instant to lose; the chevalier darted in pursuit of him, prepared to
slacken his pace as he approached the unknown; but in spite of the
diligence he used, the unknown had disappeared behind the flight of steps
before he approached.

It was evident, however, that as the man pursued was walking quietly, in
a pensive manner, with his head bent down, either beneath the weight of
grief or happiness, when once the angle was passed, unless, indeed, he
were to enter by some door or another, the chevalier could not fail to
overtake him. And this, certainly, would have happened, if, at the very
moment he turned the angle, the chevalier had not run against two
persons, who were themselves wheeling in the opposite direction. The
chevalier was ready to seek a quarrel with these two troublesome
intruders, when, looking up, he recognized the superintendent. Fouquet
was accompanied by a person whom the chevalier now saw for the first
time. This stranger was the bishop of Vannes. Checked by the important
character of the individual, and obliged out of politeness to make his
own excuses when he expected to receive them, the chevalier stepped back
a few paces; and as Monsieur Fouquet possessed, if not the friendship, at
least the respect of every one; as the king himself, although he was
rather his enemy than his friend, treated M. Fouquet as a man of great
consideration, the chevalier did what the king himself would have done,
namely, he bowed to M. Fouquet, who returned his salutation with kindly
politeness, perceiving that the gentleman had run against him by mistake
and without any intention of being rude. Then, almost immediately
afterwards, having recognized the Chevalier de Lorraine, he made a few
civil remarks, to which the chevalier was obliged to reply. Brief as the
conversation was, De Lorraine saw, with the most unfeigned displeasure,
the figure of his unknown becoming dimmer in the distance, and fast
disappearing in the darkness. The chevalier resigned himself, and, once
resigned, gave his entire attention to Fouquet: - "You arrive late,
monsieur," he said. "Your absence has occasioned great surprise, and I
heard Monsieur express himself as much astonished that, having been
invited by the king, you had not come."

"It was impossible for me to do so; but I came as soon as I was free."

"Is Paris quiet?"

"Perfectly so. Paris has received the last tax very well."

"Ah! I understand you wished to assure yourself of this good feeling
before you came to participate in our _fetes_."

I have arrived, however, somewhat late to enjoy them. I will ask you,
therefore, to inform me if the king is in the chateau or not, if I am
likely to be able to see him this evening, or if I shall have to wait
until to-morrow."

"We have lost sight of his majesty during the last half-hour nearly,"
said the chevalier.

"Perhaps he is in Madame's apartments?" inquired Fouquet.

"Not in Madame's apartments, I should think, for I just now met Madame as
she was entering by the small staircase; and unless the gentleman whom
you a moment ago encountered was the king himself - " and the chevalier
paused, hoping that, in this manner, he might learn who it was he had
been hurrying after. But Fouquet, whether he had or had not recognized
De Guiche, simply replied, "No, monsieur, it was not the king."

The chevalier, disappointed in his expectation, saluted them; but as he
did so, casting a parting glance around him, and perceiving M. Colbert in
the center of a group, he said to the superintendent: "Stay, monsieur;
there is some one under the trees yonder, who will be able to inform you
better than myself."

"Who?" asked Fouquet, whose near-sightedness prevented him from seeing
through the darkness.

"M. Colbert," returned the chevalier.

"Indeed! That person, then, who is speaking yonder to those men with
torches in their hands, is M. Colbert?"

"M. Colbert himself. He is giving orders personally to the workmen who
are arranging the lamps for the illuminations."

"Thank you," said Fouquet, with an inclination of the head, which
indicated that he had obtained all the information he wished. The
chevalier, on his side, having, on the contrary, learned nothing at all,
withdrew with a profound salutation.

He had scarcely left when Fouquet, knitting his brows, fell into a deep
reverie. Aramis looked at him for a moment with a mingled feeling of
compassion and silence.

"What!" he said to him, "the fellow's name alone seemed to affect you.
Is it possible that, full of triumph and delight as you were just now,
the sight merely of that man is capable of dispiriting you? Tell me,
have you faith in your good star?"

"No," replied Fouquet, dejectedly.

"Why not?"

"Because I am too full of happiness at this present moment," he replied,
in a trembling voice. "You, my dear D'Herblay, who are so learned, will
remember the history of a certain tyrant of Samos. What can I throw into
the sea to avert approaching evil? Yes! I repeat it once more, I am too
full of happiness! so happy that I wish for nothing beyond what I
have... I have risen so high... You know my motto: '_Quo non
ascendam?_' I have risen so high that nothing is left me but to descend
from my elevation. I cannot believe in the progress of a success already
more than human."

Aramis smiled as he fixed his kind and penetrating glance upon him. "If
I were aware of the cause of your happiness," he said, "I should probably
fear for your grace; but you regard me in the light of a true friend; I
mean, you turn to me in misfortune, nothing more. Even that is an
immense and precious boon, I know; but the truth is, I have a just right
to beg you to confide in me, from time to time, any fortunate
circumstances that befall you, in which I should rejoice, you know, more
than if they had befallen myself."

"My dear prelate," said Fouquet, laughing, "my secrets are of too profane
a character to confide them to a bishop, however great a worldling he may

"Bah! in confession."

"Oh! I should blush too much if you were my confessor." And Fouquet
began to sigh. Aramis again looked at him without further betrayal of
his thoughts than a placid smile.

"Well," he said, "discretion is a great virtue."

"Silence," said Fouquet; "yonder venomous reptile has recognized us, and
is crawling this way."


"Yes; leave me, D'Herblay; I do not wish that fellow to see you with me,
or he will take an aversion to _you_."

Aramis pressed his hand, saying, "What need have I of his friendship,
while you are here?"

"Yes, but I may not always be here," replied Fouquet, dejectedly.

"On that day, then, if that day should ever dawn," said Aramis,
tranquilly, "we will think over a means of dispensing with the
friendship, or of braving the dislike of M. Colbert. But tell me, my
dear Fouquet, instead of conversing with this reptile, as you did him the
honor of styling him, a conversation the need for which I do not
perceive, why do you not pay a visit, if not to the king, at least to

"To Madame," said the superintendent, his mind occupied by his
_souvenirs_. "Yes, certainly, to Madame. "

"You remember," continued Aramis, "that we have been told that Madame
stands high in favor during the last two or three days. It enters into
your policy, and forms part of our plans, that you should assiduously
devote yourself to his majesty's friends. It is a means of counteracting
the growing influence of M. Colbert. Present yourself, therefore, as
soon as possible to Madame, and, for our sakes, treat this ally with

"But," said Fouquet, "are you quite sure that it is upon her that the
king has his eyes fixed at the present moment?"

"If the needle has turned, it must be since the morning. You know I have
my police."

"Very well! I will go there at once, and, at all events, I shall have a
means of introduction in the shape of a magnificent pair of antique
cameos set with diamonds."

"I have seen them, and nothing could be more costly and regal."

At this moment they were interrupted by a servant followed by a courier.
"For you, monseigneur," said the courier aloud, presenting a letter to

"For your grace," said the lackey in a low tone, handing Aramis a
letter. And as the lackey carried a torch in his hand, he placed himself
between the superintendent and the bishop of Vannes, so that both of them
could read at the same time. As Fouquet looked at the fine and delicate
writing on the envelope, he started with delight. Those who love, or who
are beloved, will understand his anxiety in the first place, and his
happiness in the next. He hastily tore open the letter, which, however,
contained only these words: "It is but an hour since I quitted you, it is
an age since I told you how much I love you." And that was all. Madame
de Belliere had, in fact, left Fouquet about an hour previously, after
having passed two days with him; and apprehensive lest his remembrance of
her might be effaced for too long a period from the heart she regretted,
she dispatched a courier to him as the bearer of this important
communication. Fouquet kissed the letter, and rewarded the bearer with a
handful of gold. As for Aramis, he, on his side, was engaged in reading,
but with more coolness and reflection, the following letter:

"The king has this evening been struck with a strange fancy; a woman
loves him. He learned it accidentally, as he was listening to the
conversation of this young girl with her companions; and his majesty has
entirely abandoned himself to his new caprice. The girl's name is
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and she is sufficiently pretty to warrant
this caprice becoming a strong attachment. Beware of Mademoiselle de la

There was not a word about Madame. Aramis slowly folded the letter and
put it in his pocket. Fouquet was still delightedly inhaling the perfume
of his epistle.

"Monseigneur," said Aramis, touching Fouquet's arm.

"Yes, what is it?" he asked.

"An idea has just occurred to me. Are you acquainted with a young girl
of the name of La Valliere?

"Not at all."

"Reflect a little."

"Ah! yes, I believe so; one of Madame's maids of honor."

"That must be the one."

"Well, what then?"

"Well, monseigneur, it is to that young girl that you must pay your visit
this evening."

"Bah! why so?"

"Nay, more than that, it is to her you must present your cameos."


"You know, monseigneur, that my advice is not to be regarded lightly."

"But this is unforeseen - "

"That is my affair. Pay your court in due form, and without loss of
time, to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. I will be your guarantee with
Madame de Belliere that your devotion is altogether politic."

"What do you mean, my dear D'Herblay, and whose name have you just

"A name which ought to convince you that, as I am so well informed about
yourself, I may possibly be just as well informed about others. Pay your
court, therefore, to La Valliere."

"I will pay my court to whomsoever you like," replied Fouquet, his heart
filled with happiness.

"Come, come, descend again to the earth, traveler in the seventh heaven,"
said Aramis; "M. Colbert is approaching. He has been recruiting while we
were reading; see, how he is surrounded, praised, congratulated; he is
decidedly becoming powerful." In fact, Colbert was advancing, escorted
by all the courtiers who remained in the gardens, every one of whom
complimented him upon the arrangements of the _fete_: all of which so
puffed him up that he could hardly contain himself.

"If La Fontaine were here," said Fouquet, smiling, "what an admirable
opportunity for him to recite his fable of 'The Frog that wanted to make
itself as big as the Ox.'"

Colbert arrived in the center of the circle blazing with light; Fouquet
awaited his approach, unmoved and with a slightly mocking smile. Colbert
smiled too; he had been observing his enemy during the last quarter of an
hour, and had been approaching him gradually. Colbert's smile was a
presage of hostility.

"Oh, oh!" said Aramis, in a low tone of voice to the superintendent; "the
scoundrel is going to ask you again for more millions to pay for his
fireworks and his colored lamps." Colbert was the first to salute them,
and with an air which he endeavored to render respectful. Fouquet hardly
moved his head.

"Well, monseigneur, what do your eyes say? Have we shown our good taste?"

"Perfect taste," replied Fouquet, without permitting the slightest tone
of raillery to be remarked in his words.

"Oh!" said Colbert, maliciously, "you are treating us with indulgence.
We are poor, we servants of the king, and Fontainebleau is no way to be
compared as a residence with Vaux."

"Quite true," replied Fouquet coolly.

"But what can we do, monseigneur?" continued Colbert, "we have done our
best on slender resources."

Fouquet made a gesture of assent.

"But," pursued Colbert, "it would be only a proper display of your
magnificence, monseigneur, if you were to offer to his majesty a _fete_
in your wonderful gardens - in those gardens which have cost you sixty
millions of francs."

"Seventy-two," said Fouquet.

"An additional reason," returned Colbert; "it would, indeed, be truly

"But do you suppose, monsieur, that his majesty would deign to accept my

"I have no doubt whatever of it," cried Colbert, hastily; "I will
guarantee that he does."

"You are exceedingly kind," said Fouquet. "I may depend on it, then?"

"Yes, monseigneur; yes, certainly."

"Then I will consider the matter," yawned Fouquet.

"Accept, accept," whispered Aramis, eagerly.

"You will consider?" repeated Colbert.

"Yes," replied Fouquet; "in order to know what day I shall submit my
invitation to the king."

"This very evening, monseigneur, this very evening."

"Agreed," said the superintendent. "Gentlemen, I should wish to issue my
invitations; but you know that wherever the king goes, the king is in his
own palace; it is by his majesty, therefore, that you must be invited."
A murmur of delight immediately arose. Fouquet bowed and left.

"Proud and dauntless man," thought Colbert, "you accept, and yet you know
it will cost you ten millions."

"You have ruined me," whispered Fouquet, in a low tone, to Aramis.

"I have saved you," replied the latter, whilst Fouquet ascended the
flight of steps and inquired whether the king was still visible.

Chapter XLVII:
The Orderly Clerk.

The king, anxious to be again quite alone, in order to reflect well upon
what was passing in his heart, had withdrawn to his own apartments, where
M. de Saint-Aignan had, after his conversation with Madame, gone to meet
him. This conversation has already been related. The favorite, vain of
his twofold importance, and feeling that he had become, during the last
two hours, the confidant of the king, began to treat the affairs of the
court in a somewhat indifferent manner: and, from the position in which
he had placed himself, or rather, where chance had placed him, he saw
nothing but love and garlands of flowers around him. The king's love for
Madame, that of Madame for the king, that of Guiche for Madame, that of
La Valliere for the king, that of Malicorne for Montalais, that of
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente for himself, was not all this, truly,
more than enough to turn the head of any courtier? Besides, Saint-Aignan
was the model of courtiers, past, present, and to come; and, moreover,
showed himself such an excellent narrator, and so discerningly
appreciative that the king listened to him with an appearance of great
interest, particularly when he described the excited manner with which
Madame had sought for him to converse about the affair of Mademoiselle de
la Valliere. While the king no longer experienced for Madame any remains
of the passion he had once felt for her, there was, in this same
eagerness of Madame to procure information about him, great gratification
for his vanity, from which he could not free himself. He experienced
this pleasure then, but nothing more, and his heart was not, for a single
moment, alarmed at what Madame might, or might not, think of his
adventure. When, however, Saint-Aignan had finished, the king, while
preparing to retire to rest, asked, "Now, Saint-Aignan, you know what
Mademoiselle de la Valliere is, do you not?"

"Not only what she is, but what she will be."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that she is everything that woman can wish to be - that is to
say, beloved by your majesty; I mean, that she will be everything your
majesty may wish her to be."

"That is not what I am asking. I do not wish to know what she is to-day,
or what she will be to-morrow; as you have remarked, that is my affair.
But tell me what others say of her."

"They say she is well conducted."

"Oh!" said the king, smiling, "that is mere report."

"But rare enough, at court, sire, to believe when it is spread."

"Perhaps you are right. Is she well born?"

"Excellently; the daughter of the Marquis de la Valliere, and step-
daughter of that good M. de Saint-Remy."

"Ah, yes! my aunt's major-domo; I remember; and I remember now that I saw
her as I passed through Blois. She was presented to the queens. I have
even to reproach myself that I did not on that occasion pay her the
attention she deserved."

"Oh, sire! I trust that your majesty will now repair time lost."

"And the report - you tell me - is, that Mademoiselle de la Valliere
never had a lover."

"In any case, I do not think your majesty would be much alarmed at the

"Yet, stay," said the king, in a very serious tone of voice.

"Your majesty?"

"I remember."


"If she has no lover, she has, at least, a betrothed."

"A betrothed!"

"What! Count, do you not know that?"


"You, the man who knows all the news?"

"Your majesty will excuse me. You know this betrothed, then?"

"Assuredly! his father came to ask me to sign the marriage contract: it
is - " The king was about to pronounce the Vicomte de Bragelonne's name,
when he stopped, and knitted his brows.

"It is - " repeated Saint-Aignan, inquiringly.

"I don't remember now," replied Louis XIV., endeavoring to conceal an
annoyance he had some trouble to disguise.

"Can I put your majesty in the way?" inquired the Comte de Saint-Aignan.

"No; for I no longer remember to whom I intended to refer; indeed, I only
remember very indistinctly, that one of the maids of honor was to marry
the name, however, has escaped me."

"Was it Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente he was going to marry?" inquired

"Very likely," said the king.

"In that case, the intended was M. de Montespan; but Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente did not speak of it, it seemed to me, in such a manner as
would frighten suitors away."

"At all events," said the king, "I know nothing, or almost nothing, about
Mademoiselle de la Valliere. Saint-Aignan, I rely upon you to procure me
every information about her."

"Yes, sire, and when shall I have the honor of seeing your majesty again,
to give you the latest news?"

"Whenever you have procured it."

"I shall obtain it speedily, then, if the information can be as quickly
obtained as my wish to see your majesty again."

"Well said, count! By the by, has Madame displayed any ill-feeling
against this poor girl?"

"None, sire."

"Madame did not get angry, then?"

"I do not know; I only know that she laughed continually."

"That's well; but I think I hear voices in the ante-rooms - no doubt a
courier has just arrived. Inquire, Saint-Aignan." The count ran to the
door and exchanged a few words with the usher; he returned to the king,
saying, "Sire, it is M. Fouquet who has this moment arrived, by your
majesty's orders, he says. He presented himself, but, because of the
lateness of the hour, he does not press for an audience this evening, and
is satisfied to have his presence here formally announced."

"M. Fouquet! I wrote to him at three o'clock, inviting him to be at
Fontainebleau the following day, and he arrives at Fontainebleau at two
o'clock in the morning! This is, indeed, zeal!" exclaimed the king,
delighted to see himself so promptly obeyed. "On the contrary, M.
Fouquet shall have his audience. I summoned him, and will receive him.
Let him be introduced. As for you, count, pursue your inquiries, and be
here to-morrow."

The king placed his finger on his lips; and Saint-Aignan, his heart
brimful of happiness, hastily withdrew, telling the usher to introduce M.
Fouquet, who, thereupon, entered the king's apartment. Louis rose to
receive him.

"Good evening, M. Fouquet," he said, smiling graciously; "I congratulate
you on your punctuality; and yet my message must have reached you late?"

"At nine in the evening, sire."

"You have been working very hard lately, M. Fouquet, for I have been
informed that you have not left your rooms at Saint-Mande during the last
three or four days."

"It is perfectly true, your majesty, that I have kept myself shut up for
the past three days," replied Fouquet.

"Do you know, M. Fouquet, that I had a great many things to say to you?"
continued the king, with a most gracious air.

"Your majesty overwhelms me, and since you are so graciously disposed
towards me, will you permit me to remind you of the promise made to grant
an audience?"

"Ah, yes! some church dignitary, who thinks he has to thank me for
something, is it not?"

"Precisely so, sire. The hour is, perhaps, badly chosen; but the time of
the companion whom I have brought with me is valuable, and as
Fontainebleau is on the way to his diocese - "

"Who is it, then?"

"The bishop of Vannes, whose appointment your majesty, at my
recommendation, deigned, three months since, to sign."

"That is very possible," said the king, who had signed without reading;
"and he is here?"

"Yes, sire; Vannes is an important diocese; the flock belonging to this
pastor needed his religious consolation; they are savages, whom it is
necessary to polish, at the same time that he instructs them, and M.
d'Herblay is unequalled in such kind of missions."

"M. d'Herblay!" said the king, musingly, as if his name, heard long
since, was not, however, unknown to him.

"Oh!" said Fouquet, promptly, "your majesty is not acquainted with the
obscure name of one of your most faithful and valuable servants?"

"No, I confess I am not. And so he wishes to set off again?"

"He has this very day received letters which will, perhaps, compel him to
leave, so that, before setting off for that unknown region called
Bretagne, he is desirous of paying his respects to your majesty."

"Is he waiting?"

"He is here, sire."

"Let him enter."

Fouquet made a sign to the usher in attendance, who was waiting behind
the tapestry. The door opened, and Aramis entered. The king allowed him
to finish the compliments which he addressed to him, and fixed a long
look upon a countenance which no one could forget, after having once
beheld it.

"Vannes!" he said: "you are bishop of Vannes, I believe?"

"Yes, sire."

"Vannes is in Bretagne, I think?" Aramis bowed.

"Near the coast?" Aramis again bowed.

"A few leagues from Bell-Isle, is it not?"

"Yes, sire," replied Aramis; "six leagues, I believe."

"Six leagues; a mere step, then," said Louis XIV.

"Not for us poor Bretons, sire," replied Aramis: "six leagues, on the
contrary, is a great distance, if it be six leagues on land; and an
immense distance, if it be leagues on the sea. Besides, I have the honor
to mention to your majesty that there are six leagues of sea from the
river to Belle-Isle."

"It is said that M. Fouquet has a very beautiful house there?" inquired
the king.

"Yes, it is said so," replied Aramis, looking quietly at Fouquet.

"What do you mean by 'it is said so?'" exclaimed the king.

"He has, sire."

"Really, M. Fouquet, I must confess that one circumstance surprises me."

"What may that be, sire?"

"That you should have at the head of the diocese a man like M. d'Herblay,
and yet should not have shown him Belle-Isle."

"Oh, sire," replied the bishop, without giving Fouquet time to answer,
"we poor Breton prelates seldom leave our residences."

"M. de Vannes," said the king, "I will punish M. Fouquet for his

"In what way, sire?"

"I will change your bishopric."

Fouquet bit his lips, but Aramis only smiled.

"What income does Vannes bring you in?" continued the king.

"Sixty thousand livres, sire," said Aramis.

"So trifling an amount as that; but you possess other property, Monsieur
de Vannes?"

"I have nothing else, sire; only M. Fouquet pays me one thousand two
hundred livres a year for his pew in the church."

"Well, M. d'Herblay, I promise you something better than that."

"Sire - "

"I will not forget you."

Aramis bowed, and the king also bowed to him in a respectful manner, as
he was accustomed to do towards women and members of the Church. Aramis
gathered that his audience was at an end; he took his leave of the king
in the simple, unpretending language of a country pastor, and disappeared.

"He is, indeed, a remarkable face," said the king, following him with his
eyes as long as he could see him, and even to a certain degree when he
was no longer to be seen.

"Sire," replied Fouquet, "if that bishop had been educated early in life,
no prelate in the kingdom would deserve the highest distinctions better
than he."

"His learning is not extensive, then?"

"He changed the sword for the crucifix, and that rather late in life.
But it matters little, if your majesty will permit me to speak of M. de
Vannes again on another occasion - "

"I beg you to do so. But before speaking of him, let us speak of
yourself, M. Fouquet."

"Of me, sire?"

"Yes, I have to pay you a thousand compliments."

"I cannot express to your majesty the delight with which you overwhelm

"I understand you, M. Fouquet. I confess, however, to have had certain
prejudices against you."

"In that case, I was indeed unhappy, sire."

"But they exist no longer. Did you not perceive - "

"I did, indeed, sire; but I awaited with resignation the day when the
truth would prevail; and it seems that that day has now arrived."

"Ah! you knew, then, you were in disgrace with me?"

"Alas! sire, I perceived it."

"And do you know the reason?"

"Perfectly well; your majesty thought that I had been wastefully lavish
in expenditure."

"Not so; far from that."

"Or, rather an indifferent administrator. In a word, you thought that,
as the people had no money, there would be none for your majesty either."

"Yes, I thought so; but I was deceived."

Fouquet bowed.

"And no disturbances, no complaints?"

"And money enough," said Fouquet.

"The fact is that you have been profuse with it during the last month."

"I have more, not only for all your majesty's requirements, but for all
your caprices."

"I thank you, Monsieur Fouquet," replied the king, seriously. "I will
not put you to the proof. For the next two months I do not intend to ask
you for anything."

"I will avail myself of the interval to amass five or six millions, which
will be serviceable as money in hand in case of war."

"Five or six millions!"

"For the expenses of your majesty's household only, be it understood."

"You think war probable, M. Fouquet?"

"I think that if Heaven has bestowed on the eagle a beak and claws, it is
to enable him to show his royal character."

The king blushed with pleasure.

"We have spent a great deal of money these few days past, Monsieur
Fouquet; will you not scold me for it?"

"Sire, your majesty has still twenty years of youth to enjoy, and a
thousand million francs to lavish in those twenty years."

"That is a great deal of money, M. Fouquet," said the king.

"I will economize, sire. Besides, your majesty as two valuable servants
in M. Colbert and myself. The one will encourage you to be prodigal with
your treasures - and this shall be myself, if my services should continue
to be agreeable to your majesty; and the other will economize money for
you, and this will be M. Colbert's province."

"M. Colbert?" returned the king, astonished.

"Certainly, sire; M. Colbert is an excellent accountant."

At this commendation, bestowed by the traduced on the traducer, the king
felt himself penetrated with confidence and admiration. There was not,
moreover, either in Fouquet's voice or look, anything which injuriously
affected a single syllable of the remark he had made; he did not pass one
eulogium, as it were, in order to acquire the right of making two
reproaches. The king comprehended him, and yielding to so much
generosity and address, he said, "You praise M. Colbert, then?"

"Yes, sire, I praise him; for, besides being a man of merit, I believe
him to be devoted to your majesty's interests."

"Is that because he has often interfered with your own views?" said the
king, smiling.

"Exactly, sire."

"Explain yourself."

"It is simple enough. I am the man who is needed to make the money come
in; he is the man who is needed to prevent it leaving."

"Nay, nay, monsieur le surintendant, you will presently say something
which will correct this good opinion."

"Do you mean as far as administrative abilities are concerned, sire?"


"Not in the slightest."


"Upon my honor, sire, I do not know throughout France a better clerk than
M. Colbert."

This word "clerk" did not possess, in 1661, the somewhat subservient
signification attached to it in the present day; but, as spoken by
Fouquet, whom the king had addressed as the superintendent, it seemed to
acquire an insignificant and petty character, that at this juncture
served admirably to restore Fouquet to his place, and Colbert to his own.

"And yet," said Louis XIV., "it was Colbert, however, that,
notwithstanding his economy, had the arrangement of my _fetes_ here at
Fontainebleau; and I assure you, Monsieur Fouquet, that in now way has he
checked the expenditure of money." Fouquet bowed, but did not reply.

"Is it not your opinion too?" said the king.

"I think, sire," he replied, "that M. Colbert has done what he had to do
in an exceedingly orderly manner, and that he deserves, in this respect,
all the praise your majesty may bestow upon him."

The word "orderly" was a proper accompaniment for the word "clerk." The
king possessed that extreme sensitiveness of organization, that delicacy
of perception, which pierced through and detected the regular order of
feelings and sensations, before the actual sensations themselves, and he
therefore comprehended that the clerk had, in Fouquet's opinion, been too
full of method and order in his arrangements; in other words, that the
magnificent _fetes_ of Fontainebleau might have been rendered more
magnificent still. The king consequently felt that there was something
in the amusements he had provided with which some person or another might
be able to find fault; he experienced a little of the annoyance felt by a
person coming from the provinces to Paris, dressed out in the very best
clothes which his wardrobe can furnish, only to find that the fashionably
dressed man there looks at him either too much or not enough. This part
of the conversation, which Fouquet had carried on with so much
moderation, yet with extreme tact, inspired the king with the highest
esteem for the character of the man and the capacity of the minister.
Fouquet took his leave at a quarter to three in the morning, and the king
went to bed a little uneasy and confused at the indirect lesson he had
received; and a good hour was employed by him in going over again in
memory the embroideries, the tapestries, the bills of fare of the various
banquets, the architecture of the triumphal arches, the arrangements for
the illuminations and fireworks, all the offspring of the "Clerk
Colbert's" invention. The result was, the king passed in review before
him everything that had taken place during the last eight days, and
decided that faults could be found in his _fetes_. But Fouquet, by his
politeness, his thoughtful consideration, and his generosity, had injured
Colbert more deeply than the latter, by his artifice, his ill-will, and
his persevering hatred, had ever yet succeeded in hurting Fouquet.

Chapter XLVIII:
Fontainebleau at Two o'Clock in the Morning.

As we have seen, Saint-Aignan had quitted the king's apartment at the
very moment the superintendent entered it. Saint-Aignan was charged with
a mission that required dispatch, and he was going to do his utmost to
turn his time to the best advantage. He whom we have introduced as the
king's friend was indeed an uncommon personage; he was one of those
valuable courtiers whose vigilance and acuteness of perception threw all
other favorites into the shade, and counterbalanced, by his close
attention, the servility of Dangeau, who was not the favorite, but the
toady of the king. M. de Saint-Aignan began to think what was to be done
in the present position of affairs. He reflected that his first
information ought to come from De Guiche. He therefore set out in search
of him, but De Guiche, whom we saw disappear behind one of the wings, and
who seemed to have returned to his own apartments, had not entered the
chateau. Saint-Aignan therefore went in quest of him, and after having
turned, and twisted, and searched in every direction, he perceived
something like a human form leaning against a tree. This figure was as
motionless as a statue, and seemed deeply engaged in looking at a window,
although its curtains were closely drawn. As this window happened to be
Madame's, Saint-Aignan concluded that the form in question must be that
of De Guiche. He advanced cautiously, and found he was not mistaken. De
Guiche had, after his conversation with Madame, carried away such a
weight of happiness, that all of his strength of mind was hardly
sufficient to enable him to support it. On his side, Saint-Aignan knew
that De Guiche had had something to do with La Valliere's introduction to
Madame's household, for a courtier knows everything and forgets nothing;
but he had never learned under what title or conditions De Guiche had
conferred his protection upon La Valliere. But, as in asking a great
many questions it is singular if a man does not learn something, Saint-
Aignan reckoned upon learning much or little, as the case might be, if he
questioned De Guiche with that extreme tact, and, at the same time, with
that persistence in attaining an object, of which he was capable. Saint-
Aignan's plan was as follows: If the information obtained was
satisfactory, he would inform the king, with alacrity, that he had
lighted upon a pearl, and claim the privilege of setting the pearl in
question in the royal crown. If the information were unsatisfactory, -
which, after all, might be possible, - he would examine how far the king
cared about La Valliere, and make use of his information in such a manner
as to get rid of the girl altogether, and thereby obtain all the merit of
her banishment with all the ladies of the court who might have the least
pretensions to the king's heart, beginning with Madame and finishing with
the queen. In case the king should show himself obstinate in his fancy,
then he would not produce the damaging information he had obtained, but
would let La Valliere know that this damaging information was carefully
preserved in a secret drawer of her confidant's memory. In this manner,
he would be able to air his generosity before the poor girl's eyes, and
so keep her in constant suspense between gratitude and apprehension, to
such an extent as to make her a friend at court, interested, as an
accomplice, in trying to make his fortune, while she was making her own.
As far as concerned the day when the bombshell of the past should burst,
if ever there were any occasion, Saint-Aignan promised himself that he
would by that time have taken all possible precautions, and would pretend
an entire ignorance of the matter to the king; while, with regard to La
Valliere, he would still have an opportunity of being considered the
personification of generosity. It was with such ideas as these, which
the fire of covetousness had caused to dawn in half an hour, that Saint-
Aignan, the son of earth, as La Fontaine would have said, determined to
get De Guiche into conversation: in other words, to trouble him in his
happiness - a happiness of which Saint-Aignan was quite ignorant. It was
long past one o'clock in the morning when Saint-Aignan perceived De
Guiche, standing, motionless, leaning against the trunk of a tree, with
his eyes fastened upon the lighted window, - the sleepiest hour of night-
time, which painters crown with myrtles and budding poppies, the hour
when eyes are heavy, hearts throb, and heads feel dull and languid - an
hour which casts upon the day which has passed away a look of regret,
while addressing a loving greeting to the dawning light. For De Guiche
it was the dawn of unutterable happiness; he would have bestowed a
treasure upon a beggar, had one stood before him, to secure him
uninterrupted indulgence in his dreams. It was precisely at this hour
that Saint-Aignan, badly advised, - selfishness always counsels badly, -
came and struck him on the shoulder, at the very moment he was murmuring
a word, or rather a name.

"Ah!" he cried loudly, "I was looking for you."

"For me?" said De Guiche, starting.

"Yes; and I find you seemingly moon-struck. Is it likely, my dear comte,
you have been attacked by a poetical malady, and are making verses?"

The young man forced a smile upon his lips, while a thousand conflicting
sensations were muttering defiance of Saint-Aignan in the deep recesses
of his heart. "Perhaps," he said. "But by what happy chance - "

"Ah! your remark shows that you did not hear what I said."

"How so?"

"Why, I began by telling you I was looking for you."

"You were looking for me?"

"Yes: and I find you now in the very act."

"Of doing what, I should like to know?"

"Of singing the praises of Phyllis."

"Well, I do not deny it," said De Guiche, laughing. "Yes, my dear comte,
I was celebrating Phyllis's praises."

"And you have acquired the right to do so."


"You; no doubt of it. You; the intrepid protector of every beautiful and clever

"In the name of goodness, what story have you got hold of now?"

"Acknowledged truths, I am well aware. But stay a moment; I am in love."



"So much the better, my dear comte; tell me all about it." And De
Guiche, afraid that Saint-Aignan might perhaps presently observe the
window, where the light was still burning, took the comte's arm and
endeavored to lead him away.

"Oh!" said the latter, resisting, "do not take me towards those dark
woods, it is too damp there. Let us stay in the moonlight." And while
he yielded to the pressure of De Guiche's arm, he remained in the flower-
garden adjoining the chateau.

"Well," said De Guiche, resigning himself, "lead me where you like, and
ask me what you please."

"It is impossible to be more agreeable than you are." And then, after a
moment's silence, Saint-Aignan continued, "I wish you to tell me
something about a certain person in who you have interested yourself."

"And with whom you are in love?"

"I will neither admit nor deny it. You understand that a man does not
very readily place his heart where there is no hope of return, and that
it is most essential he should take measures of security in advance."

"You are right," said De Guiche with a sigh; "a man's heart is a very
precious gift."

"Mine particularly is very tender, and in that light I present it to you."

"Oh! you are well known, comte. Well?"

"It is simply a question of Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente."

"Why, my dear Saint-Aignan, you are losing your senses, I should think."

"Why so?"

"I have never shown or taken any interest in Mademoiselle de Tonnay-



"Did you not obtain admission for Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente into
Madame's household?"

"Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente - and you ought to know it better than
any one else, my dear comte - is of a sufficiently good family to make
her presence here desirable, and her admittance very easy."

"You are jesting."

"No; and upon my honor I do not know what you mean."

"And you had nothing, then, to do with her admission?"


"You do not know her?"

"I saw her for the first time the day she was presented to Madame.
Therefore, as I have never taken any interest in her, as I do not know
her, I am not able to give you the information you require." And De
Guiche made a movement as though he were about to leave his questioner.

"Nay, nay, one moment, my dear comte," said Saint-Aignan; "you shall not
escape me in this manner."

"Why, really, it seems to me that it is now time to return to our

"And yet you were not going in when I - did not meet, but found you."

"Therefore, my dear comte," said De Guiche, "as long as you have anything
to say to me, I place myself entirely at your service."

"And you are quite right in doing so. What matters half an hour more or
less? Will you swear that you have no injurious communications to make
to me about her, and that any injurious communications you might possibly
have to make are not the cause of your silence?"

"Oh! I believe the poor child to be as pure as crystal."

"You overwhelm me with joy. And yet I do not wish to have towards you
the appearance of a man so badly informed as I seem. It is quite certain
that you supplied the princess's household with the ladies of honor.
Nay, a song has even been written about it."

"Oh! songs are written about everything."

"Do you know it?"

"No: sing it to me and I shall make its acquaintance."

"I cannot tell you how it begins; I only remember how it ends."

"Very well, at all events, that is something."

"When Maids of Honor happen to run short,
Lo! - Guiche will furnish the entire Court."

"The idea is weak, and the rhyme poor," said De Guiche.

"What can you expect, my dear fellow? it is not Racine's or Moliere's,
but La Feuillade's; and a great lord cannot rhyme like a beggarly poet."

"It is very unfortunate, though, that you only remember the termination."

"Stay, stay, I have just recollected the beginning of the second couplet."

"Why, there's the birdcage, with a pretty pair,
The charming Montalais, and..."

"And La Valliere," exclaimed Guiche, impatiently, and completely ignorant
besides of Saint-Aignan's object.

"Yes, yes, you have it. You have hit upon the word, 'La Valliere.'"

"A grand discovery indeed."

"Montalais and La Valliere, these, then, are the two young girls in whom
you interest yourself," said Saint-Aignan, laughing.

"And so Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente's name is not to be met with in
the song?"

"No, indeed."

"And are you satisfied, then?"

"Perfectly; but I find Montalais there," said Saint-Aignan, still

"Oh! you will find her everywhere. She is a singularly active young

"You know her?"

"Indirectly. She was the _protegee_ of a man named Malicorne, who is a
_protegee_ of Manicamp's; Manicamp asked me to get the situation of maid
of honor for Montalais in Madame's household, and a situation for
Malicorne as an officer in Monsieur's household. Well, I asked for the
appointments, for you know very well that I have a weakness for that
droll fellow Manicamp."

"And you obtained what you sought?"

"For Montalais, yes; for Malicorne, yes and no; for as yet he is only on
trial. Do you wish to know anything else?"

"The last word of the couplet still remains, La Valliere," said Saint-
Aignan, resuming the smile that so tormented Guiche.

"Well," said the latter, "it is true that I obtained admission for her
in Madame's household."

"Ah!" said Saint-Aignan.

"But," continued Guiche, assuming a great coldness of manner, "you will
oblige me, comte, not to jest about that name. Mademoiselle la Baume le
Blanc de la Valliere is a young lady perfectly well-conducted."

"Perfectly well-conducted do you say?"


"Then you have not heard the last rumor?" exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

"No, and you will do me a service, my dear comte, in keeping this report
to yourself and to those who circulate it."

"Ah! bah! you take the matter up very seriously."

"Yes; Mademoiselle de Valliere is beloved by one of my best friends."

Saint-Aignan started. "Aha!" he said.

"Yes, comte," continued Guiche; "and consequently, you, the most
distinguished man in France for polished courtesy of manner, will
understand that I cannot allow my friend to be placed in a ridiculous

Saint-Aignan began to bite his nails, partially from vexation, and
partially from disappointed curiosity. Guiche made him a very profound

"You send me away," said Saint-Aignan, who was dying to know the name of
the friend.

"I do not send you away, my dear fellow. I am going to finish my lines
to Phyllis."

"And those lines - "

"Are a _quatrain_. You understand, I trust, that a _quatrain_ is a
serious affair?"

"Of course."

"And as, of these four lines, of which it is composed, I have yet three
and a half to make, I need my undivided attention."

"I quite understand. Adieu! comte. By the by - "


"Are you quick at making verses?"

"Wonderfully so."

"Will you have quite finished the three lines and a half to-morrow

"I _hope_ so."

"Adieu, then, until to-morrow."

"Adieu, adieu!"

Saint-Aignan was obliged to accept the notice to quit; he accordingly did
so, and disappeared behind the hedge. Their conversation had led Guiche
and Saint-Aignan a good distance from the chateau.

Every mathematician, every poet, and every dreamer has his own subjects
of interest. Saint-Aignan, on leaving Guiche, found himself at the
extremity of the grove, - at the very spot where the outbuildings of the
servants begin, and where, behind the thickets of acacias and chestnut-
trees interlacing their branches, which were hidden by masses of clematis
and young vines, the wall which separated the woods from the courtyard
was erected. Saint-Aignan, alone, took the path which led towards these
buildings; De Guiche going off in the opposite direction. The one
proceeded to the flower-garden, while the other bent his steps towards
the walls. Saint-Aignan walked on between rows of mountain-ash, lilac,
and hawthorn, which formed an almost impenetrable roof above his head;
his feet were buried in the soft gravel and thick moss. He was
deliberating a means of taking his revenge, which seemed difficult for
him to carry out, and was vexed with himself for not having learned more
about La Valliere, notwithstanding the ingenious measures he had resorted
to in order to acquire more information about her, when suddenly the
murmur of a human voice attracted his attention. He heard whispers, the
complaining tones of a woman's voice mingled with entreaties, smothered
laughter, sighs, and half-stilted exclamations of surprise; but above
them all, the woman's voice prevailed. Saint-Aignan stopped to look
about him; he perceived from the greatest surprise that the voices
proceeded, not from the ground, but from the branches of the trees. As
he glided along under the covered walk, he raised his head, and observed
at the top of the wall a woman perched upon a ladder, in eager
conversation with a man seated on a branch of a chestnut-tree, whose head
alone could be seen, the rest of his body being concealed in the thick
covert of the chestnut. (5)

Chapter XLIX:
The Labyrinth.

Saint-Aignan, who had only been seeking for information, had met with an
adventure. This was indeed a piece of good luck. Curious to learn why,
and particularly what about, this man and woman were conversing at such
an hour, and in such a singular position, Saint-Aignan made himself as
small as he possibly could, and approached almost under the rounds of the
ladder. And taking measures to make himself as comfortable as possible,
he leaned his back against a tree and listened, and heard the following
conversation. The woman was the first to speak.

"Really, Monsieur Manicamp," she said, in a voice which, notwithstanding
the reproaches she addressed to him, preserved a marked tone of coquetry,
"really your indiscretion is of a very dangerous character. We cannot
talk long in this manner without being observed."

"That is very probable," said the man, in the calmest and coolest of

"In that case, then, what would people say? Oh! if any one were to see
me, I declare I should die of very shame."

"Oh! that would be very silly; I do not believe you would."

"It might have been different if there had been anything between us; but
to injure myself gratuitously is really very foolish of me; so, adieu,
Monsieur Manicamp."

"So far so good; I know the man, and now let me see who the woman is,"
said Saint-Aignan, watching the rounds of the ladder, on which were
standing two pretty little feet covered with blue satin shoes.

"Nay, nay, for pity's sake, my dear Montalais," cried Manicamp, "deuce
take it, do not go away; I have a great many things to say to you, of the
greatest importance, still."

"Montalais," said Saint-Aignan to himself, "one of the three. Each of
the three gossips had her adventure, only I imagined the hero of this
one's adventure was Malicorne and not Manicamp."

At her companion's appeal, Montalais stopped in the middle of her
descent, and Saint-Aignan could observe the unfortunate Manicamp climb
from one branch of the chestnut-tree to another, either to improve his
situation or to overcome the fatigue consequent upon his inconvenient

"Now, listen to me," said he; "you quite understand, I hope, that my
intentions are perfectly innocent?"

"Of course. But why did you write me a letter stimulating my gratitude
towards you? Why did you ask me for an interview at such an hour and in
such a place as this?"

"I stimulated your gratitude in reminding you that it was I who had been
the means of your becoming attached to Madame's household; because most
anxiously desirous of obtaining the interview you have been kind enough
to grant me, I employed the means which appeared to me most certain to
insure it. And my reason for soliciting it, at such an hour and in such
a locality, was, that the hour seemed to me to be the most prudent, and
the locality the least open to observation. Moreover, I had occasion to
speak to you upon certain subjects which require both prudence and

"Monsieur Manicamp!"

"But everything I wish to say is perfectly honorable, I assure you."

"I think, Monsieur Manicamp, it will be more becoming in me to take my

"No, no! - listen to me, or I will jump from my perch here to yours; and
be careful how you set me at defiance, for a branch of this chestnut-tree
causes me a good deal of annoyance, and may provoke me to extreme
measures. Do not follow the example of this branch, then, but listen to

"I am listening, and I agree to do so; but be as brief as possible, for
if you have a branch of the chestnut-tree which annoys you, I wish you to
understand that one of the rounds of the ladder is hurting the soles of
my feet, and my shoes are being cut through."

"Do me the kindness to give me your hand."


"Will you have the goodness to do so?"

"There is my hand, then; but what are you going to do?"

"To draw you towards me."

"What for? You surely do not wish me to join you in the tree?"

"No; but I wish you to sit down upon the wall; there, that will do; there
is quite room enough, and I would give a great deal to be allowed to sit
down beside you."

"No, no; you are very well where you are; we should be seen."

"Do you really think so?" said Manicamp, in an insinuating voice.

"I am sure of it."

"Very well, I remain in my tree, then, although I cannot be worse placed."

"Monsieur Manicamp, we are wandering away from the subject."

"You are right, we are so."

"You wrote me a letter?"

"I did."

"Why did you write?"

"Fancy, at two o'clock to-day, De Guiche left."

"What then?"

"Seeing him set off, I followed him, as I usually do."

"Of course, I see that, since you are here now."

"Don't be in a hurry. You are aware, I suppose, that De Guiche is up to
his very neck in disgrace?"

"Alas! yes."

"It was the very height of imprudence on his part, then, to come to
Fontainebleau to seek those who had at Paris sent him away into exile,
and particularly those from whom he had been separated."

"Monsieur Manicamp, you reason like Pythagoras."

"Moreover, De Guiche is as obstinate as a man in love can be, and he
refused to listen to any of my remonstrances. I begged, I implored him,
but he would not listen to anything. Oh, the deuce!"

"What's the matter?"

"I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle Montalais, but this confounded branch,
about which I have already had the honor of speaking to you, has just
torn a certain portion of my dress."

"It is quite dark," replied Montalais, laughing; "so, pray continue, M.

"De Guiche set off on horseback as hard as he could, I following him, at
a slower pace. You quite understand that to throw one's self into the
water, for instance, with a friend, at the same headlong rate as he
himself would do it, would be the act either of a fool or a madman. I
therefore allowed De Guiche to get in advance, and I proceeded on my way
with a commendable slowness of pace, feeling quite sure that my
unfortunate friend would not be received, or, if he had been, that he
would ride off again at the very first cross, disagreeable answer; and
that I should see him returning much faster than he went, without having,
myself, gone much farther than Ris or Melun - and that even was a good
distance you will admit, for it is eleven leagues to get there and as
many to return."

Montalais shrugged her shoulders.

"Laugh as much as you like; but if, instead of being comfortably seated
on the top of the wall as you are, you were sitting on this branch as if
you were on horseback, you would, like Augustus, aspire to descend."

"Be patient, my dear M. Manicamp; a few minutes will soon pass away; you
were saying, I think, that you had gone beyond Ris and Melun."

"Yes, I went through Ris and Melun, and I continued to go on, more and
more surprised that I did not see him returning; and here I am at
Fontainebleau; I look for and inquire after De Guiche everywhere, but no
one has seen him, no one in the town has spoken to him; he arrived riding
at full gallop, he entered the chateau; and there he has disappeared. I
have been here at Fontainebleau since eight o'clock this evening
inquiring for De Guiche in every direction, but no De Guiche can be
found. I am dying with uneasiness. You understand that I have not been
running my head into the lion's den, in entering the chateau, as my
imprudent friend has done; I came at once to the servants' offices, and I
succeeded in getting a letter conveyed to you; and now, for Heaven's
sake, my dear young lady, relieve me from my anxiety."

"There will be no difficulty in that, my dear M. Manicamp; your friend De
Guiche has been admirably received."


"The king made quite a fuss over him."

"The king, who exiled him!"

"Madame smiled upon him, and Monsieur appears to like him better than

"Ah! ah!" said Manicamp, "that explains to me, then, why and how he has
remained. And did he not say anything about me?"

"Not a word."

"That is very unkind. What is he doing now?"

"In all probability he is asleep, or, if not asleep, dreaming."

"And what have they been doing all the evening?"


"The famous ballet? How did De Guiche look?"


"Dear fellow! And now, pray forgive me, Mademoiselle Montalais; but all
I now have to do is pass from where I now am to your apartment."

"What do you mean?"

"I cannot suppose that the door of the chateau will be opened for me at
this hour; and as for spending the night upon this branch, I possibly
might not object to do so, but I declare it is impossible for any other
animal than a boa-constrictor to do it."

"But, M. Manicamp, I cannot introduce a man over the wall in that manner."

"Two, if you please," said a second voice, but in so timid a tone that it
seemed as if its owner felt the utter impropriety of such a request.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Montalais, "who is that speaking to me?"

"Malicorne, Mademoiselle Montalais."

And as Malicorne spoke, he raised himself from the ground to the lowest
branches, and thence to the height of the wall.

"Monsieur Malicorne! why, you are both mad!"

"How do you do, Mademoiselle Montalais?" inquired Malicorne.

"I needed but this!" said Montalais, in despair.

"Oh! Mademoiselle Montalais," murmured Malicorne; "do not be so severe,
I beseech you."

"In fact," said Manicamp, "we are your friends, and you cannot possibly
wish your friends to lose their lives; and to leave us to pass the night
on these branches is in fact condemning us to death."

"Oh!" said Montalais, "Monsieur Malicorne is so robust that a night
passed in the open air with the beautiful stars above him will not do him
any harm, and it will be a just punishment for the trick he has played

"Be it so, then; let Malicorne arrange matters with you in the best way
he can; I pass over," said Manicamp. And bending down the famous branch
against which he had directed such bitter complaints, he succeeded, by
the assistance of his hands and feet, in seating himself side by side
with Montalais, who tried to push him back, while he endeavored to
maintain his position, and, moreover, he succeeded. Having taken
possession of the ladder, he stepped on it, and then gallantly offered
his hand to his fair antagonist. While this was going on, Malicorne had
installed himself in the chestnut-tree, in the very place Manicamp had
just left, determining within himself to succeed him in the one he now
occupied. Manicamp and Montalais descended a few rounds of the ladder,
Manicamp insisting, and Montalais laughing and objecting.

Suddenly Malicorne's voice was heard in tones of entreaty:

"I entreat you, Mademoiselle Montalais, not to leave me here. My
position is very insecure, and some accident will be certain to befall
me, if I attempt unaided to reach the other side of the wall; it does not
matter if Manicamp tears his clothes, for he can make use of M. de
Guiche's wardrobe; but I shall not be able to use even those belonging to
M. Manicamp, for they will be torn."

"My opinion," said Manicamp, without taking any notice of Malicorne's
lamentations, "is that the best thing to be done is to go and look for De
Guiche without delay, for, by and by, perhaps, I may not be able to get
to his apartments."

"That is my own opinion, too," replied Montalais; "so, go at once,
Monsieur Manicamp."

"A thousand thanks. Adieu Mademoiselle Montalais," said Manicamp,
jumping to the ground; "your condescension cannot be repaid."

"Farewell, M. Manicamp; I am now going to get rid of M. Malicorne."

Malicorne sighed. Manicamp went away a few paces, but returning to the
foot of the ladder, he said, "By the by, how do I get to M. de Guiche's

"Nothing easier. You go along by the hedge until you reach a place where
the paths cross."


"You will see four paths."


"One of which you will take."

"Which of them?"

"That to the right."

"That to the right?"

"No, to the left."

"The deuce!"

"No, no, wait a minute - "

"You do not seem to be quite sure. Think again, I beg."

"You take the middle path."

"But there are _four_."

"So there are. All I know is, that one of the four paths leads straight
to Madame's apartments; and that one I am well acquainted with."

"But M. de Guiche is not in Madame's apartments, I suppose?"

"No, indeed."

"Well, then the path which leads to Madame's apartments is of no use to
me, and I would willingly exchange it for the one that leads to where M.
de Guiche is lodging."

"Of course, and I know that as well; but as for indicating it from where
we are, it is quite impossible."

"Well, let us suppose that I have succeeded in finding that fortunate

"In that case, you are almost there, for you have nothing else to do but
cross the labyrinth."

"_Nothing_ more than that? The deuce! so there is a labyrinth as well."

"Yes, and complicated enough too; even in daylight one may sometimes be
deceived, - there are turnings and windings without end: in the first
place, you must turn three times to the right, then twice to the left,
then turn once - stay, is it once or twice, though? at all events, when
you get clear of the labyrinth, you will see an avenue of sycamores, and
this avenue leads straight to the pavilion in which M. de Guiche is

"Nothing could be more clearly indicated," said Manicamp; "and I have not
the slightest doubt in the world that if I were to follow your
directions, I should lose my way immediately. I have, therefore, a
slight service to ask of you."

"What may that be?"

"That you will offer me your arm and guide me yourself, like another
like another - I used to know mythology, but other important matters have
made me forget it; pray come with me, then?"

"And am I to be abandoned, then?" cried Malicorne.

"It is quite impossible, monsieur," said Montalais to Manicamp; "if I
were to be seen with you at such an hour, what would be said of me?"

"Your own conscience would acquit you," said Manicamp, sententiously.

"Impossible, monsieur, impossible."

"In that case, let me assist Malicorne to get down; he is a very
intelligent fellow, and possesses a very keen scent; he will guide me,
and if we lose ourselves, both of us will be lost, and the one will save
the other. If we are together, and should be met by any one, we shall
look as if we had some matter of business in hand; whilst alone I should
have the appearance either of a lover or a robber. Come, Malicorne, here
is the ladder."

Malicorne had already stretched out one of his legs towards the top of
the wall, when Manicamp said, in a whisper, "Hush!"

"What's the matter?" inquired Montalais.

"I hear footsteps."

"Good heavens!"

In fact the fancied footsteps soon became a reality; the foliage was
pushed aside, and Saint-Aignan appeared, with a smile on his lips, and
his hand stretched out towards them, taking every one by surprise; that
is to say, Malicorne upon the tree with his head stretched out, Montalais
upon the round of the ladder and clinging to it tightly, and Manicamp on
the ground with his foot advanced ready to set off. "Good-evening,
Manicamp," said the comte, "I am glad to see you, my dear fellow; we
missed you this evening, and a good many inquiries have been made about
you. Mademoiselle de Montalais, your most obedient servant."

Montalais blushed. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed, hiding her face in
both her hands.

"Pray reassure yourself; I know how perfectly innocent you are, and I
shall give a good account of you. Manicamp, do you follow me: the hedge,
the cross-paths, and labyrinth, I am well acquainted with them all; I
will be your Ariadne. There now, your mythological name is found at

"Perfectly true, comte."

"And take M. Malicorne away with you at the same time," said Montalais.

"No, indeed," said Malicorne; "M. Manicamp has conversed with you as long
as he liked, and now it is my turn, if you please; I have a multitude of
things to tell you about our future prospects."

"You hear," said the comte, laughing; "stay with him, Mademoiselle
Montalais. This is, indeed, a night for secrets." And, taking
Manicamp's arm, the comte led him rapidly away in the direction of the
road Montalais knew so well, and indicated so badly. Montalais followed
them with her eyes as long as she could perceive them.

Chapter L:
How Malicorne Had Been Turned Out of the Hotel of the Beau Paon.

While Montalais was engaged in looking after the comte and Manicamp,
Malicorne had taken advantage of the young girl's attention being drawn
away to render his position somewhat more tolerable, and when she turned
round, she immediately noticed the change which had taken place; for he
had seated himself, like a monkey, upon the wall, the foliage of the wild
vine and honeysuckle curled around his head like a faun, while the
twisted ivy branches represented tolerably enough his cloven feet.
Montalais required nothing to make her resemblance to a dryad as complete
as possible. "Well," she said, ascending another round of the ladder,
"are you resolved to render me unhappy? have you not persecuted me
enough, tyrant that you are?"

"I a tyrant?" said Malicorne.

"Yes, you are always compromising me, Monsieur Malicorne; you are a
perfect monster of wickedness."


"What have you to do with Fontainebleau? Is not Orleans your place of

"Do you ask me what I have to do here? I wanted to see you."

"Ah, great need of that."

"Not as far as concerns yourself, perhaps, but as far as I am concerned,
Mademoiselle Montalais, you know very well that I have left my home, and
that, for the future, I have no other place of residence than that which
you may happen to have. As you, therefore, are staying at Fontainebleau
at the present moment, I have come to Fontainebleau."

Montalais shrugged her shoulders. "You wished to see me, did you not?"
she said.

"Of course."

"Very well, you have seen me, - you are satisfied; so now go away."

"Oh, no," said Malicorne; "I came to talk with you as well as to see you."

"Very well, we will talk by and by, and in another place than this."

"By and by! Heaven only knows if I shall meet you by and by in another
place. We shall never find a more favorable one than this."

"But I cannot this evening, nor at the present moment."

"Why not?"

"Because a thousand things have happened to-night."

"Well, then, my affair will make a thousand and one."

"No, no; Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente is waiting for me in our room to
communicate something of the very greatest importance."

"How long has she been waiting?"

"For an hour at least."

"In that case," said Malicorne, tranquilly, "she can wait a few minutes

"Monsieur Malicorne," said Montalais, "you are forgetting yourself."

"You should rather say that it is you who are forgetting me, and that I
am getting impatient at the part you make me play here indeed! For the
last week I have been prowling about among the company, and you have not
once deigned to notice my presence."

"Have you been prowling about here for a week, M. Malicorne?"

"Like a wolf; sometimes I have been burnt by the fireworks, which have
singed two of my wigs; at others, I have been completely drenched in the
osiers by the evening damps, or the spray from the fountains, - half-
famished, fatigued to death, with the view of a wall always before me,
and the prospect of having to scale it perhaps. Upon my word, this is
not the sort of life for any one to lead who is neither a squirrel, a
salamander, nor an otter; and since you drive your inhumanity so far as
to wish to make me renounce my condition as a man, I declare it openly.
A man I am, indeed, and a man I will remain, unless by superior orders."

"Well, then, tell me, what do you wish, - what do you require, - what do
you insist upon?" said Montalais, in a submissive tone.

"Do you mean to tell me that you did not know I was at Fontainebleau?"


"Nay, be frank."

"I suspected so."

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